Free «Insurgency in Bolivia in the 1960's» Essay Sample


The republic of Bolivia has been greatly haunted since its founding because of the enormous anti-colonial indigenous insurrection which happened in 1781. Bolivia military encamped in El Alto in attempt to siege the Spanish elites who were ruling at the moment. Bolivia republic failed to seize its targeted state because it lacked urban allies. Bolivia was added to the Quechau-speaking Incas Empire in 1450 that entered the Bolivian highland. The indigenous group of Quechau Incas Empire controlled Bolivia until 1925 when the Spanish conquest took over. In the colonial times this specific region was referred to as Charcas or Upper Peru and they were controlled by the Viceroy of Lima. The Spanish royal authority over Bolivia weakened after the Napoleonic wars and the result of the war was rapid growth of sentiment against the conquests. Bolivia gained its independence in the year 1809 though it was subjected to sixteen grievous and hard years before its establishment as a republic.

Historical Events leading to the Insurgency

Bolivia was not able to govern itself efficiently after acquiring its independence in 1825. The president at the time was Simon Bolivar Palacio; he faced many problems in governing the state because of its heterogeneous nature. Besides that; majority of the population was illiterate and they therefore lacked the sense of patriotism as well as national self identity. Bolivia regional rivalries remained rampant because of its early independence acquisition. The inhabitants of the new found republic who were mainly Indians remained entangled in cultural activities, illiteracy and physical isolation. This worsened their situation because many of them remained unaware of the country which they inhabited until recently. Despite the fact that the Indians were left with distinctive heritage by the Spaniards; this things were of little use to them because their full concentration was on survival for existence (Farber 2009).

Much of the Bolivian land was taken up during the early wars and also because of their bilateral deals which were very controversial. Almost half of its territories were snatched from them because of the wars. For example Bolivia's rich nitrate fields that were situated in the Atacama Desert as well as its seacoast were lost during the Pacific war. This was the most grievous loss to the Bolivia republic. The country suffered greatly during its historic times from the despotic numerous rule and the incompetent caudillos. Bolivia suffered cruelly from the hands of General Mariano Melgarejo Valencia. Melgarejo depleted the treasures of the country and imposed very heavy conditions on Brazil in exchange for using Amazon River as means of transport. Besides that he started a government seizure which was aimed at disposing communal lands of the Indians. The Bolivia's caudillos concentrated a lot in fighting for the newly acquired powers instead of looking for ways of governing their nation effectively.

The Chaco War which happened between 1932 to 1935 left Bolivia entirely divested.  Sixty five thousand lives were lost during the war and hundred millions of its dollars as well as most of its territory. Despite the fact that Chaco was not inhabited at that particular time it remained the only way to Atlantic Ocean which could be used by the Bolivians. This war become the turning point for the illiterate Bolivian because it discredited its traditional oligarch and seriously embarked on development of effective cultural life, politics as well as military. The reformist military organized several coups which led to the development of political activism besides political groups. The first political party to be formed by the Indians was the Nationalist revolutionary Movement (NRM).

Prior to the 1960s Bolivian insurgency was the Second World War. The main issues that followed the war were the social unrest as well as economic decline.

The major event that preceded the Second World War was the Bolivian national Revolution which happened in 1952. This was a very big social revolution and it was organized and executed by the MNR. The previous government failed to hand power to the electoral winner and as a result the country was led by General Hugo Ballivian who was a military Junta. The MNR won the 1951elections through its candidate Victor Paz Estenssoro. The president of the time denied Paz the chance to rule despite of his victory on allegation that he had not attained the 51 percent votes that are usually required. As a result he ordered the Bolivian Congress to choose for himself the person who was to be handed over the leadership of the country (Farber 2009).

Despite the fact that the president appointed the congress to deal with the matter; he defiled his command and went forth and selected a number of military officers whom he put in charge of junta. One of the military officers who were appointed by the president was General Seleme. This man failed to follow the rules of the president because of his secretive support of the MNR and as a result he was dismissed out of office in 1952. Seleme was currently in charge of two thousands men who were essential in the country's police force and as a result he seized the opportunity as the perfect time for organization of a coup. Millan's; the son of the former president and Seleme organized the coup and they received much support from the MNR. The army was effectively fought by the armed worker militias. After a few days of fighting the army was forced to surrender and others were wiped out therefore they were forced to defect to the revolutionists.

The revolution left Bolivia in the hands of the party which had won the elections. Juan Lechin led the revolution though he did not assume the power because they called the 1951 winner who was in exile by then. Paz nationalized the largest tin mines and gave the management roles to its initial workers. During his first term Paz gave weapons to the mine workers as well as the peasant farmers beside that he abolished the literacy requirements which were essential for voting. Paz ruled from 1952 to 1956 and his strategies created intensive inflation which was curbed by the succeeding president. Siles was the next president and his activities were the opposite of the revolution. For instance he eliminated the administrative role of the mine workers besides reduction of the social welfare programs.

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Paz managed to return in office after Siles in 1960. Political issues emerged when Paz attempted to remain in office as Bolivia's president for the third time. Because of this act the president was deposed by the vice president's leadership as well as the General Rene. This revolution was not violent and it was aimed at the few people who controlled 92% of the land. Through the revolution Bolivia was able to get its land that had been earlier grabbed. A civilian government was formed after the revolution and other benefits which were accrued included provision of basic education in the rural areas as well as universal suffrage. The many improvements that resulted from the revolution did not take long because of the political scientist who termed it as uncompleted revolution and as a result it lost its momentum and things went back to their initial step.

An exploration of Che Guevara

Che was a main figure in the Cuban Revolution and an argentine Marxist revolution. During his youth Che travelled widely in the entire Latin America. In his exploration the poverty he witnessed greatly transformed him. As a young man Che grew up in a lavish family and as a result he was introduced to many influential political leaders. Despite of his leftist leanings as a young man he developed an attachment for the poor. Guevara was a physician, a writer and an eloquent speaker.

The Castro revolutionary plan was aimed at assaulting Cuba through Mexico. About eighty two men surged Cuba in November of 1956 and most of the men were killed on arrival and others were killed after being captured though a few managed to escape and regrouped afterwards. Guevara was provoked by the bloody confrontation to change professional from physician to combatant.

A few members of the entire revolutionaries' band managed to regroup because majority of them did not survive. The team which regrouped found assistance from the Frank Pais urban guerrilla network. The attack was very heavy and after the war many people kept wondering if Castro had survived or not.  The happenings made Guevara to join the rebel army; he had to convince Castro through his competency, patience and diplomacy. Che started factories which were producing grenades, trained new recruits in becoming tactful and also built ovens and bakeries for making bread. Besides that he also started schools to educate the illiterate the basics which included writing and reading. On addition to that Guevara started clinics and places where he could disseminate information through newspapers as well as workshops. The workshops were mainly made with the objective of offering tactics to the military. His great effort and creativity made his leaders to promote him to second army commander (Farber 2009).

Guevara became the second commander after Fidel Castro and he was very strict as far as discipline is concerned and that is the reason he used to shoot any defectors. During his term of leadership deserts were severely punished because they were considered as traitors. Guevara was very strict for instance those who will absent themselves unnecessarily were hunted down. His way of leadership made many people fear him for instance he was well known for ruthlessness and brutality. He became popular for summary execution which used to happen during the guerrilla campaign. Guevara described his execution activities in his diary and later published an incident entitled account "death of a traitor". Despite his harsh disposition Guevara served as a teacher though he was a commander; he often entertained his team through engaged reading from Spanish lyric poets among many other writers.

Fidel Castro described Che as intelligent exemplary leader who was very daring. Guevara had impeccable moral authority over his team; he was a man who ventured into many risky deals and one of his tendencies was toward foolhardiness. His behavior in the combat made their enemies to admire him for his fondness and intelligence. Che is remembered for an occasion when he had been injured in the war but instead of giving up he ran and rescued his friend from the hot battle. His brevity made the guards who were meant to harm him not to do so because they held great admiration for him. He's remembered for his tireless contribution in developing clandestine radio station which passed important information to the people about the ongoing events as well as the movement in place. In 1959 Guevara played a very great role in Las Mercedes battle. Guevara used his column to stop a 1500 men's force which had been called to destroy the force and troop of Castro.

Guevara became an expert in his war tactics because he could often lead run and hit tactics which will get the Batista's army unprepared therefore unable to counteract. During the war Che led teams that ambushed Havana which led to the division of the island into two. As a result his group took the province of Las Villas this radical movement enabled him to conquer the entire provinces except Santa Clara. His final victory was in conquering Santa Clara. His team emerged victories despite of the countless times when they had been outgunned completely surrounded or even overran. After gaining full control of Havana Guevara left for Tarara because of the heavy asthma attack and while still there he initiated the Tarara group which made plans for bringing economic, social and political developments (Farber 2009).  

Che Guevara and his failed attempts

When Che returned from Tarara he embarked on moving his commander to the left. He therefore resolved to study the Mao-Tse-tung policies. Castro was very cautions in all the economics reforms which he undertook. On the other hand Guevara opted for a complete overhaul and his ideas became very disastrous and as a result he was asked to resign by Fidel because his efforts were no longer needed there. As a result Che left with 120 Cubans to African Congo. He wanted to foment communist revolution but his attempt greatly failed. After the failure Guevara turned to South America because he believed that he could start a revolt at Bolivia. The United States seemed to have no interest in what he was doing and the discounted population of the peasants made him to make a misjudgment. Because of his improper judgment Guevara was not successful in recruiting soldiers and as a result he was arrested by the Bolivian army troops who shot him the next day after his arrest (Wittmann 2002).

Analysis of Bolivia insurgency in relation to the Counterinsurgency warfare theory and practice

Insurgency is a form of an old warfare and a number of names have been used to describe it. Despite the fact that it's described by many names; those names does not usually have the same meaning. On the other hand modern insurgency was realized in the mid 19th century. Some of the factors that were very important in the modern insurgency include the revolutionary Marxism as well as the struggles associated with national liberation. These two important aspects were successfully derived from the Mao practice and writings and other sources with well distinct theoretical literature. These are some of the aspects that are shared between insurgency and counterinsurgency. The fight against insurgency will always remain political in nature. For these reason the traditionally victorious counterinsurgency is a complete reflection of the entire effort that is waged towards counterinsurgency.

For these reason modern militaries experience much problems in fighting enemies who might not be visible. Governments get frustrated in there attempt of resisting delusions of some upcoming technologies and tactics. The historical insurgent is clearly reflected in the modern insurgents. Currently the entire world is against terror which is a reflection of contemporary insurgency. The first initial consideration by Galula is that war is basically political therefore revolutionary war that happened in the republic of Bolivia is not exceptional. Since war is political the main agenda of such an event is winning the support of the entire population. For these reasons it's important to wedge every war after weighing its political influence and effects. Therefore it's very important to consider the overall effects of the war on the entire population (Daly 2006).

According to the woks of Galula, it's evident that insurgents are advantageous because its struggle leads to the overthrow of the underlying power and authority. On the other hand counterinsurgent is aimed at persuading the population that they will be protected from the threats and activities of the insurgents. For this reason a counterinsurgency war is usually long lived and very intense. In his book Galula urges that a counterinsurgent war can only be successful when there is a firm political leadership as well as a national consensus. Insurgents are meant to be well organized groups in order for successful overthrow of the underlying government to occur. Though many insurgent groups seems to be very disorganized the exact opposite of Galula's description.

In his book Galula indicates that an insurgent is a methodically protracted struggle conducted in a systematic manner in order to attain its objectives.

In his theory an insurgent is not supposed to be predictable like the revolution making it a historical and political problem. In the beginning of the 19th century what was well known was small wars as well as low intensity conflicts but things have gradually changed in the modern world where people talk of counterterrorism, insurgency support as well as multinational peacekeeping. Insurgents basically comprise irregular fights with armed groups for instance terrorists, vigilantes and militias among many other groups. Most of the times the fighting forces which are deported at the war sites are very irregular and they mostly make demands which cannot be easily swept away or negotiated therefore peace agreements are usually of great importance under such circumstances. Some of the behaviors that are greatly associated with such groups include sell of hostages, assassinations, they often seek the attention of the media besides injuring humanitarian workers.

Guerrilla attacks are a good example of insurgent war. Stopping an insurgent war is very different from fighting a regular war. For instance insurgency war does not follow any international criteria that are well recognized. Insurgent mainly concentrate at making demands that are aimed at there recognition at a times its cause may be mere jealousy. They basically tend to last for a very long time even thirty years. From history it's evident that a won counterinsurgency takes approximately nine years whiles the lost one about thirteen years. Special military strategies are needed for one to win an insurgency because it's mainly a psychological war therefore usage of weapons can really cause a lot of damages. For instance Che Guevara won because of his psychological intellect. There are many moral and ethical issues that arise as a result of such a war because most of the times it's unfair (Thomas, Kiser and Casebeer 2005).


Basing on the theories which were discussed in David Gulula's book on the counterinsurgency warfare theory and practice there are many similarities between the insurgent war of Bolivia and the issues brought forth. For instance the Cuba insurgent was entirely political. Even the revolution that took place in 1952 was aimed at overthrowing the present governing government because of the injustice that was done to the candidate who won the 1951 elections. On the other hand the overthrow of the president in 1964 was very unpredictable therefore the Bolivia historical happenings of the mid 19th century remain the basic guidelines for the wars which were waged later. It's evident that Guevara unfruitful attempt of recruiting soldiers which lead to his capture remains the basis of the recent happenings in the republic of Bolivia. History greatly influences the forthcoming events.


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